Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The BIG city

Jon's passport will expire next April.  But, when he gets a new visa, it is good until July or August.  They will not put a visa in his passport if it extends past the expiration of the passport.  So we needed to renew his passport.  The best way to do that is to go to the U.S. consulate's office in Shanghai.  Shanghai is about a 2 hour train ride away (on a slow train.  fast trains can get you there in 45 minutes).  We decided to make a weekend of it.  We left Hangzhou around 2 pm.  The kids love to travel by train.  Actually, I do too. 

We met a girl on the train that spoke very good English.  At first, I noticed her vocabulary was very good, and then I noticed that she spoke with a distinct British accent.  Actually, it was an Australian accent.  She said that she grew up in Australia.  She is going to high school in Hangzhou.  She was traveling to Shanghai to go to a concert.  She was going to see Bob Dylan.

Once we were in Shanghai, we took the subway to the area that our hotel is.  On the subway, we met a guy that talks to us because he noticed a bag that Hallie is carrying.  The bag is a reusable shopping bag we got at the Bible book store here.  It has a Bible verse in Chinese and English on it.  It turns out that the guy is a Christian too. 

When we got off the subway  we were a little confused about which exit to use to come up to ground level.  Some lady asks us in English if we need any help and points us in the right direction.  The first thing we see is a huge Hershey's sign.  There is a Hershey's store right by the subway!  We go in, and before you know it, we have spent 100 RMB! But we did buy some of our favorite candies that we have not seen anywhere else in China.  They had almond joy's Mounds bars, Heath bars, Skor bars, Reese's cups, and others.  Yum yum!!!

We walked about 10 minutes to our hotel.  We liked this hotel because we could get a triple room that has a queen size bed and two twin beds. Eryn got to sleep on a pallet, but she loves that.  The hotel was pretty cheap, and we quickly discovered that you get what you pay for. 

The place was not grossly dirty, but obviously very run down.  The linen seemed clean but the walls were in need of repainting.  The beds were hard, and the pillows were flat.  The worst thing was that it was really hot in our room and the air conditioner did not work.  It just seemed to blow out hot air.  It was about 80 degrees in our room that night.  We did not sleep very well at all.  The next day, we told them at the desk.  They were surprised to hear that our room was too hot.  They told us to open a window.  They said that the AC does not work unless it is 20 degrees outside. (that's 68).  We keep the windows open, and our room does cool down.  The next night we all sleep much better.  But now that I am home, I am fighting a cold or allergies from the air.

Two good things about the hotel, is that it was very close to a lot of things, and the shower was really good.

On Saturday we just walked around in the morning looking at some of the old buildings around.  I love old buildings, so this is something I really enjoy.  We ate lunch with our old boss from Changsha.  He and his wife moved to Shanghai the year after we cam home from Changsha.  It was neat to see him again.  His wife was really really sweet.  We have always really liked Mr. Tu and were very happy to see him again.

After lunch we went to the cheap glasses market and I got 2 new pairs of glasses and a pair of prescription sunglasses for 700 RMB.  That is about $125.  We probably could have gotten it a bit cheaper, but we did bargain for those.  I am happy with them.

We met Matt Kirk (from Henderson) for dinner.  We ate at a Mexican place.  It was pretty good.  The thing that was so weird, was seeing all the foreigners and foreign families.  I really had a bit of reverse culture shock.  The kids did too.  Hallie and Liam both told me that they felt uneasy and a little shy when they saw the other foreign kids.

After supper, we went to an import store.  They actually had POP TARTS!!!!  But they were like 45-50 RMB a box.  I did however buy a few things like, crunchy taco shells, and fig bars, and black eye peas.

We were very tired by the time we got back to the hotel.  I was thankful that it was cooler in the room and I fell asleep quickly and did not stir until the next morning.

Sunday afternoon we met with a group of foreigners living in Hangzhou.  We have known of some of this group, but had not actually met them in person until then.  We ate dinner with a couple of the families.  It was fun.  It was interesting to see my kids interacting with the other American kids.  One family has a 12 year old boy.  Liam thought he was great and said that they are good friends now.  Hallie was really very, very quiet.  It was another late night, but it was good.

The next morning we packed up, checked out of the hotel, left our bags, and went to the consulate (which is kind of like an embassy).  Jon discovered that the picture he brought for his passport renewal was too small.  Grrr... so we had to go and have another picture taken.  Jon dropped off his paperwork and we were free for a few hours until our train left. 

We really packed a lot into the weekend.  The weather was really great too.  We were really comfortable all weekend.

We are glad to be back in our home.  I was very thankful for our bed and our pillows.  It will probably take us a few days to recover from our weekend.

I didn't take many pictures, but I will share some things that I thought were cool.

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